Shop Tips & Tricks #23: Drywall Screw Helper Kit

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Blog entry by GnarlyErik posted 08-12-2018 09:30 PM 1377 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 22: How to Stabilize Anything With Legs Part 23 of Shop Tips & Tricks series Part 24: MAKE HAND SANDING ALMOST FUN! »

Here’s a little hack that I find very useful around my shop.

Over the years I’ve realized how handy self-tapping drywall screws can be and I keep an assortment of them from 1” up to 3-3/4” on hand. They come in handy for many projects. Done right, a screw can take the place of a clamp, especially in tight spots, or where you’re gluing angled pieces that are difficult to clamp.

There are a couple of drawbacks though. One is there’s a small hole left when the screw is removed. This is easily dealt with by gluing a small sliver of wood in the hole – or maybe handier, a sharpened 1/8” hardwood dowel plug fits perfectly in the hole. It’s easy to prepare dozens of plugs at the time by cutting the dowel into 1” or so lengths and then sharpening the end with a sharp knife, or on a belt sander.

The other drawback is the flared ‘bugle’ head on drywall screw can split your working stock, especially thin stuff. Since the screws are designed for drywall installation, the bugle head is meant to recess just a skosh deeper than flush in drywall and works just fine for that. In wood though, the shape of the flare of the head of the screw forces the wood apart when the screw seats, and that can easily split your stock, even if you pre-drill a pilot hole. I’ve even had them split 2×4’s near the end. The shank of the screw itself normally does not cause splitting.

You can prevent splitting by using a washer on the screw – a #10, 3/16” & up to 1/4” washer works fine. Then when the screw seats, the washer applies the pressure on the stock instead of the bugle head doing it. Sometimes a bigger washer is needed, especially for very thin stock. 1/4” plywood works great and you can make washers any size you need. Just cut the plywood in rectangular pieces and drill a 1/8” hole in the middle. Wooden washers also have the advantage of not leaving an impression of the washer in your stock when removed. Just be careful when you’re gluing not to allow any glue to get between the wooden washer and your work. Sometimes I use a bit of painter’s tape as a separation layer.

One problem with wooden washers is you end up making them all over again because the impulse is to discard them after each job. I got tired of that, so used a small cardboard mailer to make myself a ‘washer kit’. There’s a thin glued-in a divider between the wooden washers and an assortment of drywall screws. Small washers are kept in an old pill bottle on top of the screw assortment. You could have another bottle with pre-made wooden plugs for the holes if you wanted. There’s a lid on the box and the entire kit can be stored on a shelf until the next time it’s needed.

It’s surprising how handy and useful this little kit is. It is a time saver and takes only a few minutes to make.

I hope this can be of help to others!

Gnarly Erik

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

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